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Bangladeshi university introduces prayer rooms for minority students

Typically, campuses have mosques for Muslims but for the first time century-old Dhaka University made room for others to pray

A video grab of the prayer room allotted for minority religion students at Dhaka University on July 11

A video grab of the prayer room allotted for minority religion students at Dhaka University on July 11. (Photo: Youtube)

Published: July 14, 2022 10:35 AM GMT

Updated: July 14, 2022 03:08 PM GMT

Bangladesh’s century-old university has taken the first step toward ending religious discrimination on campus by introducing prayer rooms for students from minority Christian, Hindu and Buddhist religions at its hostels.

Dhaka University (DU) on July 11 opened its first multi-religion prayer room for students at the Shamsunnahar Hall, one of its five dormitories for women students. The prayer room has three altars — one with a picture of Jesus Christ, another with that of Buddha, and the third with Hindu deities.

Catherine Labanya Das, 24, a Catholic student pursuing her final-year business group studies, welcomed the move but said it came a bit late. She hoped the university will also allow places of worship of other religions on campus in the future.

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Universities in the country typically allow mosques on campuses for students from the majority Muslim religion.

DU decided to end the discrimination by making space for other religions in its hostels.

Professor Lafifa Jamal, provost of Shamsunnahar Hall, said: “The University is a non-sectarian space where students of all religions have equal rights. We expect other educational institutions to follow the example set by Dhaka University.”

She agreed that the decision should have been taken earlier, but hoped that gradually prayer halls will be introduced for students of all religions.

“It has started with small prayer rooms, but in the future, there will hopefully be other places of worship alongside mosques,” Professor Jamal added.

DU, established in 1921, has five dormitories for girls and 23 for boys.

Hindu students had been demanding a space for worship for quite a few years.

“I have been studying at this university for the last three years. The demand was in place for many years. We thank the authorities for finally granting our wish,” said 21-year-old Chaity Chakraborty, a third-year student in the Mathematics department.

“Now we need not go out of the campus to bow before God ahead of an exam,” she told UCA News.

Das said as a Catholic she always prayed before venturing out for exams. “Now we have a place to pray on the campus of the university,” she added.

The university has over 38,000 students on its rolls, and more than 2,000 faculty members.

To maintain the secular character, the university authorities refrain from undertaking a religion-based survey, explained Father Tapan Camillus Rozario, an associate professor in the Department of World Religions and Culture of the University.

“Islam is the majority religion in our country, so it is natural that there will be fewer students of other religions. Hindus are the largest group among the minorities,” he said.

Father Rozario said the issue of introducing prayer rooms had been in discussion.

“We may in the future see churches for Christians, temples for Hindus and Buddhists inside universities,” he added.

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